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Annamari Sarajas

Born October 12, 1923, Nivala. Died January 3, 1985, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1948, Licentiate 1956, PhD 1957, University of Helsinki
Docent in literary history 1957–66

Editorial secretary 1949–50, Näköala
Publication officer 1948–56, Werner Söderström Oy
Editor in chief 1963–64, editorial board member 1965–68, Valvoja
Arts editor 1957–61, head of culture 1965–66, Uusi Suomi
Senior research fellow 1962–64, National Research Council of the Humanities
Research associate in aesthetics and modern literature 1956–60, Professor extraordinary 1967–68, professor of Finnish literature 1968–85, University of Helsinki

Board member 1946, Student Union of the University of Helsinki
Board member 1947–48, National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL)
Board member, vice chairman 1973–80, literature committee chairman 1980–, Finnish Literature Society
Member 1968–77, Supervisory Board of the Finnish Cultural Foundation
Member 1974–, Finnish Academy of Science and Letters

Suomen kansanrunouden tuntemus 1500–1700 -lukujen kirjallisuudessa (‘Knowledge of Finnish folk poetry in 16th to 17th century literature,’ doctoral dissertation, 1956).
Elämän meri (‘The sea of life,’ 1961)
Viimeiset romantikot (‘The last romantics,’ 1962)
Pohjoisen Suomen kuvaajia (‘Depicters of northern Finland’) in the book Suomen kirjallisuus V (‘Finnish literature V,’ 1965)
Suomalaista proosaa Lehtosesta Sillanpäähän (‘Finnish prose from Lehtonen to Sillanpää,’ 1966)
Tunnuskuvia: Suomen ja Venäjän kirjallisen realismin kosketuskohtia (‘Symbols: points of contact between Finnish and Russian literary realism,’ 1968)
Lumituisku - venäläinen aihelma (‘The blizzard – a Russian motif,’ 1970)
Orfeus nukkuu (‘Orpheus sleeps,’ 1980)

Photo: SKS
Written by Tiia Niemelä
Translated by Matthew Billington

Cultural journalist

Annamari Sarajas had a significant impact on the development of cultural journalism in the Finnish press. During her student days, immediately after World War II, she was an active participant in the student union movement; she belonged to the board of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki in 1946 and the board of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) and its foreign affairs committee for its 1947–48 term of office. She was also the editor of Ylioppilaslehti. The cultural line taken by the newspaper was personified by Sarajas, and people spoke of “Annamari’s salon.” She turned the newspaper’s arts section into a forum for promising young writers and persuaded the likes of Eino S. Repo, Kai Laitinen, Tuomas Anhava, Kyllikki Wehanen (later Villa) and Jouko Tyyri to write for the newspaper.

Before completing her doctorate, she worked as a publishing editor at the WSOY publishing house, where she was the first to read the texts of many of her generation’s most prominent writers, including Paavo Haavikko and Eeva Joenpelto.

After her PhD, Sarajas worked as arts editor for the newspaper Uusi Suomi. She developed the newspaper’s art and literature columns, transforming them along Swedish and Anglo-Saxon lines into the first culture section in Finnish press history, presenting higher-level cultural phenomenon both at home and abroad. The culture section of Uusi Suomi was a role model for other Finnish newspapers.

Already as a journalist, and then later as a professor, Sarajas took a holistic approach to culture. Although in the first half of the 1960s she worked as arts editor of Uusi Suomi, known for being an organ of the National Coalition Party, and later as the head of its entire culture section, she did not allow politics to limit the themes she explored in her writing. Sarajas was no radical modernist, but she nevertheless defended new poetry. She also received criticism for her actions from members of Uusi Suomi’s executive committee and from Finland’s grand old man of culture V.A. Koskenniemi, according to whom Sarajas favoured “incoherent, left-wing triumphalist” poetry. Sarajas responded that the newspaper’s culture section was not a vehicle for “self-publicity” but simply “a disseminator of information and a reporter of daily events.” In the field of culture, radical views on society were a big issue in the 1960s, and hence they were reported.

Because Sarajas herself was no radical, she eventually found herself on collision course with the radical young journalists with whom she worked. After her move to the University, Salama Hirvonen, a trusted Uusi Suomi journalist from as far back as the 1930s, was called in to settle the crisis at the newspaper’s culture desk.

Members of the Governing Board (Consistorium) of the University of Helsinki enjoying coffee after the inauguration of Professor of Cultural Geography Kalevi Rikkinen and Professor of Analytical Chemistry Osmo Mäkinen, January 30, 1973. From the left: Stig Jaatinen, Annamari Sarajas, Kimmo Mustakallio and Lauri af Heurlin. Photo: Helsinki University Museum.

Kortti, Jukka. Ylioppilaslehden vuosisata (‘One hundred years of Ylioppilaslehti) Gaudeamus. Tallinn 2013.
Tarkka, Pekka. Sarajas, Annamari (1923-1985). National Biography online publication. Accessed November 23, 2015.
Annamari Sarajaksen virkaanastujaisluentokutsu (‘Invitation to the inaugural lecture of Professor Annamari Sarajas’). Helsinki 1968.


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